03 Mar Seeing Hope through Darkness
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”
Perhaps you know this quote penned by Charles Dickens in A Tale of Two Cities. But do you know the rest of it? The complete sentence is: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”
In so many ways I am feeling and experiencing the truth of Dickens’ salient words. As the calendar turned to March this week, signs of Spring abound. Daffodils are beginning to pop their heads above ground, birds are singing more robustly, and I actually left the house this morning without a coat for the first time in what seems like eons. “Best of times” stuff.
But Russia has invaded Ukraine—definitely “worst of times” business. People are dead, lives and homes blown apart, families separated, children orphaned, refugees fleeing the violence by the hundreds of thousands. Images of war fill our screens each day and while I am deeply grateful and impressed by the courage, fortitude, and unity that are also on display in the Ukrainian people, I am grieved and burdened by the horrors we are witnessing. Like many, I am wondering what I can and should be doing to support our brothers and sisters. As of this writing, Presbyterian Disaster Assistance is working with partners already on the ground in Ukraine helping with the refugee crisis. We can offer tangible aid by donating to PDA.
This week also marks the beginning of Lent which is a liturgical season particularly well suited to “best of times, worst of times” reflections. On the one hand, we make a conscious choice to consider our mortality and honestly contemplate the ways sin has a foothold in our lives—the inequities and injustices, the pride and self-centeredness, the craving for attention, the self-debasement, the fears and worries.
On the other hand, Lent offers us a time to anticipate renewal in much the same way we see creation experiencing renewal. Lent is the spiritual or “soul version” of the spring cleaning we do in and around our homes when winter finally releases its grips. From washing the grime off the car to planting new flowers, from tackling long-postponed de-cluttering chores to firing up the grill and the lawn mower, spring offers us a time to refresh, to begin again, to get cleaned up and cleaned out. Our soul hungers for the same kind of attention and commitment, and we kick-start this work during Lent in preparation for the glorious celebration of the most visible image of new life the world has ever seen: Christ’s resurrection.
While the “worst of times” are always with us, so, too, are the “best of times.” Joy, love, beauty, laughter, and friendship infuse our lives, reminding us that God is with us and working in the world, especially in those places where, to return to Dickens, foolishness, incredulity, darkness, and despair are running rampant. Hold fast to wisdom, belief, light and hope, friends. They will see us to the other side. They will see us to an Easter made all the meaning because we have endured “the worst of times” first.
Yours for the Kingdom,